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Top 5 Fire Door issues seen by our Experts

Our fire experts visit a wide variety of buildings and conduct many types of fire risk assessments for residential, communal, retail, manufacturing, and factories in and around London and the Southeast.

They regularly see the same issues popping up during their detailed Fire Door Inspections. These issues are seen so often that it inspired us to create this article for the Top Five Fire Door issues they observe.

This article aims to help raise awareness among building owners to check that all fire doors are working correctly and fit for purpose. We suggest to check all of these issues to ensure your fire doors are performing effectively.

Fire doors allow egress from an area, protect escape routes from the effects of fire, and slow fire growth by limiting the amount of oxygen available. Fully functioning fire doors will reduce the speed of fire spread from one area or compartment to another and are an integral part of any fire safety plan. So, what are some of the common problems that prevent or hinder their performance?

Here are the top five general findings that our Fire Door auditors see every day.

1. Damage

We often see damage to the door leaf caused by general wear and tear or holes left from the removal of closing devices or furnishings such as handles and locks. Whether the damage merely penetrates the outer layer (leaf) or passes through the door completely the damage will affect the integrity of the door.

It simply will not hold fire back for time it is tested and certified to do so. Fire Doors should be subject to regular checks so any damage can be noticed and repaired as soon as possible.

2. Misuse

Fire Doors are meant to be kept closed at all times, but they are often wedged or propped open. This is normally because employees become fed-up of having to continually open them. In more recent times, COVID-19 and the need to ventilate the workplace gets the blame.

Fire Doors cannot prevent smoke and heat entering the means of escape, maintain adequate fire compartmentation and generally stop the spread of fire if they are not closed. If Fire Doors need to remain open for convenience, ventilation or any other reason they should be held open by an appropriate device such as a magnetic fire door retainer. These devices can be hard wired to the fire alarm system and will release the door allowing it to self-close on activation of the fire alarm.

3. Missing or damaged intumescent strips and smoke seals

In the event of a fire, smoke seals prevent smoke from passing through any gaps between the doorframe and the door itself. Cool smoke, often given off by smouldering furnishings and electrical equipment, is exceptionally toxic, therefore smoke seals on fire doors are essential.

Intumescent strips are designed to expand when exposed to heat. This expansion under fire conditions seals the gap between the doorframe and the door thus containing the fire. The frictional forces from everyday use of the door, over time can misplace, damage or completely remove intumescent strips and smoke seals. Painting over smoke seals will compromise smoke containment performance. As previously mentioned, fire doors should be subject to regular checks so any damage can be noticed and repaired as soon as possible. Assessing the condition of smoke seals and intumescent strips should form part of these checks.

4. Wrong components

A fire door is not just the door itself, in fact it is a door set made up of various components including the frame, door leaf and any fixtures and fittings. If components are removed or replaced with components that are not fire rated, the door can no longer be considered as fire rated. This is sometimes seen with vision panels which are often smashed and replaced with glass that is not fire rated. Fire rated glass can withstand temperatures in excess of 900°C. Normal or safety glass is unable to withstand anything above 120°C and when installed as part of a fire door it will simply give way in fire conditions and undermine the fire resistance that the whole door set has been tested to provide. Similarly, fire doors are often hung using hinges that are not fire rated. Doors will warp and char in a fire, and there is often a considerable air pressure difference either side of the door. Ordinary hinges will simply give up very quickly. Fire rated hinges are tested to endure the high temperatures and maintain the doors integrity for longer.

5. Ill-fitting doors

Fire doors that do not fit their frames leaving excessive gaps that allow the passage of fire and smoke are common. This could be caused by unsuitable hinges, or the door not being hung correctly in the first place. Similarly, doors can expand after taking on moisture, or damage to the door leaf, frame, hinges or closer may prevent the door from closing fully. All fire doors should self-close fully into their frames and any gaps should be consistently less than 4mm. Any gaps larger than this are considered excessive.

How can Embark assist your building?

Embarks trusted fire consultants, conduct comprehensive Fire Risk Assessments on an extensive range of commercial and residential buildings, to ensure compliance with the

Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. Our fire risk assessors are experienced in carrying out fire risk assessments in all sectors. As part of your fire risk assessment, we will assess the adequacy of your fire doors to ensure they are fit for purpose.

Embarks competent FDIS standard inspectors’ conduct comprehensive fire door inspections and will provide a detailed survey report to ensure the components of your fire doors are compliant.

Embark can work with you to help with any identified issues from your fire risk analysis and provide assistance with planning, inspections, and emergency procedures.


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